II JAMES 5
THE ULTIMATE CHRISTIAN GOAL
Let us take another look at James’ statement about counting it a joy when faced with temptation. In his excellent commentary on the book of James, William Barclay points out the true meanings of three different words in this first chapter. The word for temptation really means trials, or challenges in one sense of the word. It has the connotation of the refining of silver into a perfect coin. As the athlete gladly suffers the pain of training in order to achieve perfection in his sport and be a winner, so the word temptation here presents the Christian with an opportunity to hone his spiritual skills.
So then, the “patience” translated here is not just overcoming temptation but emerging victorious and closer to being “perfect”. Perfect, Barclay points out, means perfect to a certain goal. The goal for every Christian is to become what God the Creator made him to be, and that is a companion for the Father. To be a companion for God one needs to be an imitator of Jesus Christ, who said, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father”. That is not a physical view of His bodily form, but the spiritual characteristics of God who is Spirit.
Therefore, “temptation” is an opportunity to exercise my spiritual strength, and make it stronger so I can be more like Jesus and better able to have a companionship with His Father. We sometimes forget that God did not create us to be tin soldiers obeying all the commands of the General, but creatures “in His Own Image” to love and be a companion for Him. That is why obedience is not the key…faith is. Trusting the love and wisdom of the Father is much more important than meticulously keeping all the rules. Obedience is only of value when it is the result of true faith, as James is to say later in this book.
Let me use an example to emphasize that point. Many people consider baptism to be the final step to being a Christian. This is not so. Baptism is the first step to being a Christian. It is the acceptance of a ritual just because God wants me to, as Jesus told John. It is also an acceptance of Jesus Christ as the Lord of my life and a commitment to Him as my permanent guide and companion for the rest of my life. Baptism does not save me by the act itself, as Peter says in his first book, but puts me in personal contact with the One who can and does, if I walk with Him. Therefore, the total faith I place in Him gives me the wisdom to handle every challenge of life and gives me victory over the world making me more perfect, i.e., prepared to live with the Father for eternity. When I ask God for wisdom, it is not a request for some miraculous experience of knowing. If I have true faith in His wisdom and love, then I already have in His Word, the answers to life’s problems. True commitment to Jesus Christ means knowing what He would have me to do and having the courage to do it. That is what James means by asking in faith, nothing doubting. It is knowing that He is by my side and knows what is best no matter what the earth man may want to do.
I want to emphasize again, because of its importance, the reason that God created each of us. It was not so we could carry out a series of religious rituals, nor to have us join some religious club which we call a church. He did not create us to be a part of the mass of His creation. He created us to have a personal relationship with Him. In my earthly family I had one brother. He was just as important to my mother and father as I was. They had a personal relationship with both of us. God is Spirit and created us to have a personal walk with Him. He loved us so much that He sent His only Son to die for us. We are His children, related through Jesus Christ, who is a part of God Himself. So what God wants is for us to trust Him completely, believe in His absolute wisdom and in His absolute love for us. This is loving God and it is what we were created to do. Adam refused to believe in this and had to leave the perfect Garden where he walked with God. Faith then is the key and all our actions with reference to Him flow from this faith. It is not how right you are, or that your church is. It is whether you have a personal relationship with Him through your walk with Jesus Christ that counts, because that is what He created you for.